The Green Bay Packers know first hand how good Clay Matthews is.
Matthews has made a major impact on the Packers No. 1 ranked defense this season, culminating in his winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his play against the Baltimore Ravens. Matthews tallied six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the game.
On the season, Matthews has 35 tackles, seven sacks and a forced fumble in nine starts. Matthew’s seven sacks lead the Packers and puts him in a tie with the Washington Redskins’ Brian Orakpo for the lead among rookies. The number also ranks him 13th in the NFL.
Needless to say Matthews has been the disruptive force the Packers drafted him to be.
But Matthews played with two other, more highly touted linebackers as USC last season – Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga. Both Cushing, who was drafted by the Houston Texans, and Maualuga, who was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals, are having strong rookie campaigns as well.
Cushing, in fact, has been a stud for the Texans. Starting since his first game, Cushing has tallied 102 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Cushing ranks first among rookies in tackles and second in interceptions. He ranks fifth overall in the NFL in tackles and is a big reason the Texans, who finished 22nd in total defense last season, are improved this year.
Meanwhile, Maualuga has been an integral part of the Bengals revitalized defense, which ranks fourth in the league and No. 1 in scoring defense. Maualuga has also started from game one, tallying 47 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Both Cushing and Matthews will likely factor heavily into the defensive rookie of the year voting, to which I’d give the current edge to Cushing.
However, while Mark Sanchez – another USC rookie – gets most of the pub, it’s pretty clear these three guys will be anchoring their respective defenses for a long time to come.
If you’re into watching these guys blow some motherfuckers up during their USC days, take a look at the following videos. Needless to say, that SC defense was pretty good.